Part of Challenger: The Romulan War: A Shot In The Dark


Challenger NX-03
Friday, October 31st, 2155
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Fleet Captain’s star log, October thirty-first, twenty-one-fifty-five. Repairs to Discovery are nearing completion. The combination of the two crews has been highly productive in the past twenty-four hours. Some of the crew from the Armstrong have requested to join Discovery, of which I have approved. I have also decided to make Lieutenant Commander Cooper Walker my chief science officer on a permanent basis. Finally, Captain Müller and Commander Rodham have both recovered from their injuries too.”

Sat around the table in the Captain’s private dining hall with Fleet Captain Burton and Commander Stanton were their Discovery counterparts. Stanton appeared a lot more settled and happier since Ro-fa Ben-Ami had released Commander Rodham to his care and Captain Müller had seemed keen to leave sickbay to get back to his ship. 

“My god Lloyd, you really do have an amazing chef.” Müller said as he tucked into more of his breakfast. 

Smiling in appreciation for his kind words, Burton thanked Müller and topped up his mug of coffee. Sharing the morning meal together between the four most senior officers from the two NX-class ships felt like a good idea to Burton. They could pull their resources together and go forward with their plans. “Montana and her husband used to run a catering and events firm that led them into a life of Starfleet. My predecessor brought her onboard when she catered for the celebrations of the launch of Columbia.”

“Captain Karim was highly resourceful. It’s lucky she picked you as her first officer or who’d knows will be sitting in that chair now!” Müller remarked as he picked up his coffee.

Deciding to ignore the comments about Captain Karim as the subject matter was still sore for him, Burton didn’t want to revisit his time on Mars against his former skipper anytime soon. He was grateful for Commander Rodham to speak up.

“Talking of succeeding others.” Rodham placed his mug of tea down on the table. “Michael tells me that Commander Levesque’s brother-in-law is her replacement as your new chief science officer?”

Nodding to confirm, Burton took his napkin and wiped his mouth slightly. “Yes, Cooper was the only surviving member of the senior staff from the Armstrong that we rescued before we came looking for you guys. He’s already proven himself to us how good he is as he was the one who came up with the plan to find you. He’s an experienced officer and I think will make a great addition to the ship.”

“Well we appreciate those who have volunteered to join our crew from the Armstrong too.” Rodham added sincerely. “The extra pair of hands will make a difference while some of our injured recover.”

“Let’s make sure the cost of what they had to endure wasn’t for nothing then.” Müller added after finishing his mug of coffee and placed it down on the table. He looked to Burton and asked the one question that Burton knew was coming his way. “So what do you think of my plan?”

“Adventurous, bold and quite daring.” Burton said honestly. “I think we should consider it.”

“Seriously?” Müller sounded a bit shocked at Burton’s remark. “For someone who plays it safe by the book for most of his career, I’m quite surprised at that Lloyd.”

“Well Frank, this war has changed my perspective on things.” Burton answered back, almost snapping. “These Romulans don’t play by the same standards we do, hell they are in a completely different league to us and our allies. You can’t predict their next move compared to others, say like the Klingons.”

“They’re too secretive.” Rodham added to the conversation. He winced slightly, a side effect from the injuries that he had sustained from their battle with the Romulans. He had been treated by Ben-Ami and had been cleared for light duties from this morning. “However recently they have also been way overconfident and they’ve now slipped up.”

Stanton agreed with his husband, “Which is very unlike them.” He placed a hand over Rodham’s hand as a sign of support after he had shown signs of discomfort from his surgery. 

“So you’re going to give my plan your backing when you submit it to Starfleet?” Müller threw back to Burton. “If we both approach the Command Council with it, I am certain they won’t say no.”

“No.” Burton said back as he took a piece of toast off from the small rack in front of him and started to spread butter over it.

The other three men were confused by his response. 

“Lloyd, what do you mean by ‘no’?” Müller asked.

“Sir, I can promise you that Roman and Nathan know that ship like the back of their hand. They’ve got a solid plan that could land a crippling blow to the Romulans using their drone ships against us for some time now.” Stanton added. He too was surprised by his own captain’s decision to say no. He had reviewed the plan that the Discovery team was putting forward and it was highly detailed. 

Shaking his head to them, Burton explained what he meant. “Hold on!” He said, raising his hands to stop everyone. “Let me explain what I meant by ‘no’. I meant that we won’t be taking this to Starfleet Command as that’s what the Romulans will expect. We’re just going to go through with it.”

“Without Starfleet’s blessing, sir?” Rodham questioned, looking between his husband and back to Burton.

“Precisely.” Burton confirmed. “We need to strike now and we’ve got something that we can use to our advantage, but if we wait any longer the Romulans will work out what is happening or find a way to make a counter move that removes our ability to use the captured drone ship. We need to act fast, it’s as simple as that.”

Silence filled the room for a moment as the other men didn’t know what to say. “Are you saying what I think you’re saying sir?” Stanton asked.

“Let’s take this war to their doorsteps,” Burton said. “I’m fed up with being on the defensive with them. It’s time we paid them in kind.”

Müller smiled with delight, “Oh, I am loving what that new pip has done to you my friend.”

“I’ll take full responsibility for the fallout from Starfleet, is that clear?” Burton said, looking at them all. 

“Crystal.” Stanton said.

“Then gentlemen, I believe we need to begin working on our game plan.” Burton said as he took a bite out of his toast and chewed on it with a smirk across his face.

The mess hall on Challenger was pretty busy, more so than usual, as a result Major Yu was surprised to find a seat to sit down with her breakfast. Joining Hennessey and Ben-Ami at their usual spot, she was surprised to find another body joining them: Lieutenant Commander Cooper Walker. 

“Good Morning.” The seasoned MACO leader said to her colleagues. It was normal for her, Ben-Ami and Hennessey to have breakfast together. She welcomed their newcomer to the table. “Commander Walker, I hear the captain has made your appointment with us official. Congratulations.”

Smiling in reply, the experienced science officer thanked the major for her kind words. “Thank you Major Yu, that’s very kind of you. It’s all I could do after you all made everyone from the Armstrong feel so welcome.” Picking up his glass of orange juice, he paused. “But I do feel bad for Lieutenant Habiba, I feel like I am stepping on her toes.”

Shaking her head to disagree, Ben-Ami spoke up to defend Walker’s emotions. “Martha will appreciate someone else taking over the reins, I can assure you of that Cooper.” The doctor took a swig of coffee that she had in her hands. “Fleet Captain Burton only made her an acting department head to redeem herself from our last mission.”

“Don’t knock her Kefira.” Hennessey said in between mouthfuls of his bacon bagel. “She spoke up once and got a bad reputation. Prior to that and afterwards she has worked her ass off to prove she wants to put that mistake behind her. The woman has suffered enough.”

“I wasn’t knocking her, Ned.” The Israeli doctor responded. “I am highly impressed with how she has conducted herself. She will go far.”

“Agreed.” Hennessey said, pleased that he had gotten the wrong end of the stick with Ben-Ami’s words. “Please look out for her Cooper.” He pleaded with the new science officer.

“I will.” Walker assured his new comrades. Looking over to the MACO commander, he cleared his throat. “Major, I was chatting to some of the others who have joined me from the Armstrong the other day and we all agreed at how remarkable it is to encounter a strong partnership between the Starfleet crew and its MACO detachment. It’s a credit to you and the others.”

Finishing her scrambled eggs, Yu smiled back at Walker. “Thank you commander. I am proud of how well we get along. I can’t take all of the credit, a majority of it comes down to our younger crewmembers. They all got on exceptionally well in our first few weeks like a house on fire.”

“Hence why us oldies sit together.” Hennessey explained with a smirk.

Walker chuckled slightly. “Well it is impressive. I’ve never seen such a well-oiled crew that has barely been together for less than a year. I was impressed at how well everyone responded to the rescue efforts yesterday.”

“That’s down to the captain’s leadership too.” Ben-Ami stated. “He creates an environment of trust and empowerment among the crew, in return the crew respect him for it. He is clear in what he wants and sets a high standard, even when things are going rough. The crew have become highly loyal to him.”

“It’s another reason why when it became public knowledge about him and Commander Levesque becoming parents, everyone came out in support of them both.” Hennessey said. “Even though it wasn’t expected, the news was welcomed and I know the inclusion of you and the others from the Armstrong has been received well by the crew.”

“Especially as some of them have volunteered to join Discovery.” Yu supplemented with. “I think you’ll find everyone here only wants the best.”

Walker smiled at the affection being shared from his new colleagues. “Well it seems this will be a great place to be a part of.” He said.

“Oh it will be.” Yu said, “You’re lucky that you’re related to Commander Levesque, again the crew thought very highly of her. Whoever was picked to be her successor would have some big shoes to fill.”

Smirking at hearing talk about his sister-in-law in such a way made Walker feel that he had made the right choice in accepting the captain’s offer. “I’m sure Nicole will have a list of things for me to be aware of and do by the time she hears the news.”

“I love your confidence Cooper and if you wish to join us oldies, as the younger crew do like their own company then just know you are welcome to join us anytime. The only rule is we leave the rank at the door.” Ben-Ami added as she took a sip from her coffee. 

“That’s super nice of you, thank you and that would be great! I was a bit uncertain on how to get involved with the crew.” Walker mentioned.

“Stick with us kid, we’ll go places!” Hennessey remarked with a smirk across his face as they continued to make the newest member of the senior staff feel more at ease with them. 

Sat in the corner on a table by herself, Lieutenant Habiba had her back against the rest of the room. She was happy to be eating alone, it gave her time to consider her options right now. After the captain had made Walker’s assignment to the ship permanent, she was pretty annoyed at it now. Originally she thought she wouldn’t care as much, but now she did. Staring out of the window, she considered her future on Challenger. Maybe it was time to leave. She wondered if she could apply for a position on another ship. She was interrupted by the arrival of a small group.

“Sorry to disturb you lieutenant, but do you mind if we join you? There’s nowhere else to sit?” asked a voice that Habiba knew. 

Looking up, the science officer saw Lieutenant (junior grade) Colleen Malone standing behind her with a tray in her hand and was surrounded by two others who she didn’t know. Her and Malone had shared their lunch the day before. She seemed like a nice woman. “Colleen, yes of course.” Habiba offered the empty seats near to her.

“Martha,” Malone said as they started to sit down, “Let me introduce you to Hillary Payne and Adrian Reddick.”

“It’s lovely to meet you.” Payne said as she placed her tray down and shook Habiba’s hand. The woman, who wore a blue science uniform, was smiling. She appeared a gentle soul, one filled with kindness. She wondered if she was the same woman that was the doctor from Armstrong that had rescued Lieutenant Commander Walker.

“Thank you for letting us sit here ma’am.” Reddick said after he shook Habiba’s hand too.

Sighing at the formality from the man who wore a red ensign’s uniform, Habiba quickly asked him not to call her that. “Please, don’t call me ma’am. Martha is okay when we are here.” 

“How are you doing?” Malone quizzed as she placed her napkin across her lap. “I didn’t realise that Commander Walker was going to be taking over.”

Smiling respectfully, Habiba didn’t want to give away her true feelings and thoughts over the matter. “Oh, I’m coming to terms with it. I know my tenure as acting chief science officer would be short.”

“Commander Walker is a great man. We only knew him for a brief time on the Armstrong, but he was well liked by everyone quickly. He is a very fair and open-minded individual.” Payne added as she took her mug of herbal tea into her hands and blew on top to cool it down. “He’s very sweet.”

“He is.” Habiba agreed, “In fact he has asked the captain if I can remain with him at senior staff meetings for a while as he transitions into the new role.”

“Oh that’s good then.” Malone offered with a sweet smile.

Another woman walked over, again someone that Habiba had yet to meet. 

“Tanisha, come join us.” Malone called out and looked down at Habiba, “I hope that’s okay Martha?”

“The more the merrier.” She replied as she took a sip from her black coffee. 

Sitting down next to Malone, the engineer presented the ensign to Habiba as Ensign Tanisha Avery. 

“Welcome aboard.” Habiba said, still remaining calm and wishing she could escape to have some time to herself.

“Thank you lieutenant. Challenger is quite a distinguished ship.” Avery remarked as she placed her tray down.

Agreeing with her, Habiba said, “That she is.” Looking around at the former Armstrong crew, Habiba wondered if they were staying on Challenger or joining Discovery. She soon noticed they all had Challenger patches on their uniform sleeves. “So I take it you’ve all got new jobs here on Challenger?”

Malone nodded. “That we have. Commander Stanton offered me the new position of night watch officer in engineering.”

Habiba looked at Payne next. “I take it your joining the good Ro-fa?”

“Indeed, the captain has made a new position just for me as the second medical officer.” Payne stated. “I cannot wait to work in such an advanced sickbay. Nurse Stewart seems like a nice fella too.”

Hearing Niall’s name made Habiba feel a sense of guilt that she had yet to resolve those issues with him. “That he is and his husband is just as great.” She looked at the only man on their table. “And Adrian, are you joining engineering too?”

Shaking his head, Reddick explained he was an armoury officer. “I’m taking on the role of second armoury officer.”

Finally Avery said she was succeeding Larsen as the new second communications officer. 

“Well we’re fortunate to have you join us.” Habiba concluded as she tried to finish her breakfast.

“We’re looking forward to contributing to Challenger’s success.” Avery said. “It’d be nice to get to know some of the other junior officers. Does Challenger have much of a social aspect for the crew?”

Feeling awkward at that question being directed at her, especially as she hadn’t been too involved with her shipmates recently since their return from Delta. Habiba considered carefully how to craft her response. “The junior officers get on extremely well, but it’s Chef Lawson that organises a number of the social gatherings for the whole crew.” Pointing over to a wall screen that hung on the other side of the room. “She normally puts up there what is happening on a daily basis at lunchtime.”

“That’s great, thanks Martha.” Malone said. “We’re so lucky we have you to be our ambassador to the ship.”

Smiling a bit, Habiba wondered to herself that maybe their new recruits could be a new chapter for her on Challenger. They all appeared pleasant people.

Entering the crew lounge sluggishly, Lieutenant Conrad felt awful. His head was banging like a bass drum from a marching band while his stomach was making all sorts of unholy movements, like a gymnast doing a million black-flips. Spending the night before drinking with Trommler and a few others had not been a good idea for the pilot. Realising he had one shift this morning, he had pulled himself out of his bed gradually. Hoping a shower would help him, he soon realised that it hadn’t. Walking over to the serving hatch where the breakfast buffet was open his eyes met with Chef Lawson who just had the biggest smirk on her face.

“Good Morning Jack.” She said in a hush, motherly tone.

Cursing inwardly, Conrad realised that the cook knew he was hungover. “Hi.” Was all he could say.

Gesturing with her head towards one of the tables, the chef continued to speak in low tones. “I heard about your exploits last night, Mister Conrad. I think you’ll find Second Lieutenant Trommler and Ensign Metaxas are suffering as well. I’ve never known them or you to be so quiet in the mornings.” She paused as she stepped from around the counter and gave him a brief hug. “I hope last night helped a bit.” She whispered into him before letting go.

Smiling briefly, he nodded. “It did a bit, thanks chef.”

“I’m pleased to hear that, so what can I get you?” She offered. 

“Lots of bacon, sausages, beans, scrambled egg, fried bread, mushrooms, tomatoes, hash browns and the biggest mug you have with tea in it.” Conrad answered bluntly. 

Lawson chuckled at the response and picked up a big plate to start piling on the lieutenant’s request. 

After taking his breakfast and hot beverage he walked over to the table where Trommler and Metaxas were sitting. Both of them had expressions painted across their faces that showed how fragile they were feeling. Their skin tones were close to grey. Sitting down next to Trommler, Conrad smiled at them before he began tucking into his breakfast.

“How’s the head?” Metaxas asked in a groan like manner that sounded like he was suffering from the worst pain ever. 

“Killing me.” Conrad said as he tried to eat some bacon and keep it down. “I just want to thank you both for last night. I really needed it.”

Trommler, who remained silent as he ate some toast, smiled back at his friend. After swallowing what he had in his mouth, he leaned forward to pick up his glass of orange juice. As he did this he spoke back to Conrad, “Any time Jacky.” He said in a slow tone. “Has anyone seen Jamie or Angela this morning?”

Conrad and Metaxas both shook their heads. A minute later Metaxas raised his head upwards and towards the main door of the mess hall. “There’s Jamie.” He remarked, “He looks as rough as we do.”

Chuckling slightly, Conrad appreciated his friends efforts in helping him forget the news of the Raven. After playing in a tournament of poker, they had remained up for most of the night playing drinking games. 

Harris walked over and sat down at the table and placed his forehead on the table with a gentle thud and closed his eyes. “Oh my god, I may die.” The yeoman complained in a deep voice. “My mouth is drier than the Sahara Desert.”

  At that point Chef Lawson walked over, she was smirking further at the young men before her. “Jamie, I take it the captain’s yeoman is feeling as fragile as everyone else around this table.”

“Even more so.” He mumbled, still with his head almost flat against the table.

Lawson signalled for one of her stewards to come over and she ordered for Harris’ breakfast to be brought over to him. “You guys picked the wrong time to get that drunk. I hear the captain wants Discovery battle ready by the end of the day.”

All four men groaned in response. 

“That’s not the only thing that’s going to happen.” Commented a familiar feminine Scottish voice. Walking around the table and into an empty seat next to Metaxas wearing sunglasses was Ensign Hathaway. 

Laughing at the sight of the second helm officer. Lawson asked for clarification and if she wanted some breakfast like Conrad’s. 

“Oh my god, yes please.” Pleaded Hathaway as she pushed her auburn hair up with a hairband. After giving Lawson her order, the pilot turned back to the rest of the group. “So that Romulan ship that Discovery caught, apparently there’s a plan to use it as part of the war effort.”

“So we get to use their own things against them?” Conrad asked and didn’t give Hathaway a chance to respond. “Good, they deserve whatever the captain decides to use against them.”

Not listening to what the others were saying anymore, their voices became a blur as Lieutenant Conrad tucked into his breakfast when it arrived. 

Saturday, August 25th, 2153

E.C.S. Raven

“So you see Jack, even by connecting the plasma cannon directly to the ship’s impulse engines we increase its power, it does reduce the ship’s manoeuvrability.” Stated Captain Montague as they stood in one of the cargo holds of the Raven

It was a Saturday afternoon and after trying to work on improvements to the old J-class freighter, Conrad had been caught by the captain before they approached Draylax. This wasn’t the first time that Conrad had tried to modify the ship’s systems. He had already adjusted the ship’s guidance and navigation systems for better performance, which Montague had not minded (last month), but now Conrad was hearing another one of the captain’s long lectures and lessons about how the ship worked. 

“Yeah I know that sir, but with these improvements and the enhancements I made last month, I do not see there being any issues when we have to defend ourselves against any pirates.” Conrad stated, firm in his belief that he had done right.

Rolling his eyes, Montague argued back with the young pilot. “Jack, it’s my ship and I don’t want these modifications. Plus when was the last time we encountered any other pirates?”

“There has been a report of an increase in pirate activity against Earth Cargo Ships, especially in the last three months. Since the Xindi attacked Earth, our ships have become more of a target as every other race out there thinks we are an easy target.” Conrad explained his reasoning to his captain. 

Sighing a bit, Montague could see the young man’s point of view. Nevertheless he wasn’t about to turn his ship into a battlecruiser. “I get what you’re saying Jack, I lost loved ones and I am sure things will only get worse for us.” Pausing for a moment to consider his options, Montague relented. “Leave the modifications as they are but let’s make sure we install a buffer to avoid any overloads to the plasma conduits.”

Smiling at appreciation for his captain’s decision. “Of course sir, I will do it myself.”

As he started to walk away, Montague turned back to Conrad. “Jack, just next time come and ask me before you make any more upgrades. You’re not the chief engineer, that’s why we have Suri as our chief engineer.”

Smirking at his telling off, Conrad just nodded and went back to his work while Montague strolled away shouting out, “One day you’ll be the death of me Jack!”

Friday, October 31st, 2155

Challenger NX-03

Snapping out of his gaze, Lieutenant Conrad shook his head the moment he noticed Trommler clicking his fingers. 

“You okay Jacky Bear?” The MACO asked him affectionately while the rest were engaged with their breakfast conversations. 

Re-focusing on his friend and not on that distant memory of his past captain, Conrad nodded just once. “Yeah, yeah Trommo.” He said smiling as he picked up his fork. 

Trommler dropped his knife carefully onto his plate and gently rubbed Conrad’s back as a sign of support and comfort. He knew what his friend was thinking and wanted to show him he was still there for him. Even if he was extremely hungover!

Sniggering to herself as she sipped slowly at her coffee, Lieutenant Masuko sat at the middle table near the central window in the mess hall. With her back to the starless view, she could see the whole crew lounge from where she was sat. The one particular view that was entertaining her this morning was the sight of so many of their younger crew suffering from their drinking habits last night. 

“Oh to be in our twenties again!” Masuko commented with a slight chuckle. 

Looking over her shoulder, towards the direction that her companion was referring to, Lieutenant Cortez smirked at the view and then went back to her bowl of cereal and her reading. “My mind thinks I’m still in my twenties but my body doesn’t agree.” She remarked. “From what I overheard last night; I think they did it to help Jack out. He’s still struggling with the loss of the Raven.

Placing her mug down, the second engineer picked up her croissant and spread more jam onto it. “After hearing that news, I’ve gotta admit that every morning I wake up expecting to hear that the Lexington has been lost.”

“This whole war was going to play on us all for a long time.” Cortez remarked, knowing how worried her friend was for her husband. “When did you last hear from Adam?”

“Just before we entered the Barrens.” Masuko answered, inclining her head backwards gesturing towards the blackness behind her outside the ship. “We’ve started to send messages every day since I got back to Earth.”

Realising why Masuko was a bit anxious over their current location, she added her own thoughts on the matter. “And with us being in the Barrens and no long range subspace communication working properly, I bet you’re going…”

“…crazy, mad, restless?” Masuko said, finishing Cortez’s sentence as she picked up her croissant to eat. “Maybe I should join the drinking crew over there?”

Chuckling slightly at the idea, Cortez shook her head. “No, don’t embarrass yourself in front of our young ones. Have faith that he will be fine.” The armoury chief picked up her mug of tea and took a gulp. “Have you met all of your newbies in engineering?”

Nodding to confirm, with a mouthful of croissant, Masuko took her napkin and dabbed her lips as she finished what she was eating before answering. “Yes, they both seem very good.” She leant forward and picked up her coffee. “Didn’t you take on a new right-hand man?”

Nodding to confirm, Cortez inclined her own head to where he was sitting. “Ensign Reddick,” She said quietly, so she wasn’t heard. “He appears really nice and knowledgeable. It’s nice to have someone else on the team that has served on another starship. However I am certain we may have crossed paths at S-T-C, but he doesn’t recall.”

Looking to where she was pointing over at, Masuko saw Reddick along with Habiba as well as Malone with a couple of other women she didn’t know. “Well it seems Martha is getting to know them well.”

Turning her head round to see what the engineer was referring to, Cortez looked as she took another sip from her mug. Looking back at her friend, Cortez placed her mug down. “I do feel for Martha, the captain gave her the science department to babysit until he found a replacement for Commander Levesque and within a few days of her starting to get used to it he put Commander Walker in charge.”

“You’re too sympathetic sometimes. From what Niall told me, she was pretty difficult to live with when they were on Delta.” Masuko stated. “I’m not surprised that Jack broke it off with her.”

“And where’s the kind Sakura gone this morning?” Cortez threw back, seeing a side to her friend she had not seen before. “It’s unlike you to be so judgemental.”

Rolling her eyes, Masuko picked up another bit of her croissant. “Let’s just say I gained it when the Carreons tried to pull this ship apart.”

Understanding her friend’s perspective, the whole crew had been through hell and back with the Carreons constant attacks. “You can’t blame them completely, they were manipulated and controlled by the Romulans.”

“Yeah, well I blame them too for my moodiness this morning.” Masuko joked as she ate more of her breakfast. After a second or so she gulped down her food and soon found a sense of guiltiness washing over her. “You’re right, I’m not normally that critical and Martha doesn’t deserve to be treated like that.”

“We should try and have dinner with her tonight. Maybe invite some of the other newbies as well? Make it a girl’s night and see if we can feel like we’re in our twenties again!” Cortez suggested with a grin.

Appreciating her friend’s optimistic approach, Masuko relented and mirrored her smile in agreement. 

Smirking at the image of his husband lying almost spread eagle in their shared bed, Corporal Jenkins had just walked out of the shower. The two of them were extremely hungover and their quarters smelt like stale booze and sweat. It was pretty grim. After a night of drinking with their comrades, Jenkins and Stewart had stumbled back to their quarters and had pretty much passed out after getting ‘home’. 

After drying himself almost in complete darkness, beside the small desk lamp that was on, Jenkins started to put some clothes on. Thankfully he and his husband had the day off. Trying to be quiet with his actions, Jenkins did his best to avoid waking his husband from his slumber. His other half was lightly snoring away with the duvet almost covering his face. Smirking at the image, Jenkins pulled a hoodie over his head and soon realised that it wasn’t his, but actually Niall’s. He could smell the residual of his aftershave around the hood. Quietly walking over to their desk, he activated their desktop and went straight to his private messages to see if there was anything he had received. His inbox said zero new messages, so he went straight on to the ship’s communication board to see if there were any ship-wide announcements. Thankfully he saw that Major Yu had called a detachment briefing later on this afternoon at seventeen hundred hours. Jenkins noticed that everyone’s attendance was compulsory, he wondered what the major would be telling them. The door chime then went off, which disturbed Niall who groaned in response, so Jenkins logged off the system and went to the door. Tapping the side button, he opened the door to see Staff Sergeant Iyer standing there, wearing aviator sunglasses and in his own civilian attire. 

“Morning Rupesh,” Jenkins said in a whisper. “Gotta keep my voice down as someone is still precious.” He gestured with his thumb towards the direction of his bed where his husband was lying. 

“I know the feeling.” Iyer said in response with a snigger. “The lights in this ship are too bright. I thought I’d walk with you guys to go get some breakfast, seeing as we’ve got the day off?”

Chuckling a bit at that, Jenkins couldn’t blame the sergeant for feeling fragile. His stomach wasn’t feeling great and his headache wasn’t as bad as he thought it was. “Thanks for stopping by, but I don’t think Niall is in any condition to visit the mess hall yet.”

There was a slight groan and mumble from the bed. 

Shaking his head in disbelief at how dramatic his husband was being, Jenkins looked back at Iyer. “I’ll grab him something to eat and bring it back for him.”

“Thank you!” mumbled Stewart, who only went further under his covers.

Walking out onto the main corridor, Jenkins walked beside Iyer towards their destination. “Have you seen anyone else this morning? Last night was a lot of fun!”

Agreeing with his companion, Iyer answered him. “Angela stopped by my quarters this morning to borrow a pair of my sunglasses before heading to the mess hall herself. I think she and Jack have to undertake maintenance on all of the shuttlepods this morning.” 

Turning down a corridor the MACO enlisted soldiers carried on with their conversation reminiscing over what they could remember from the antics from the night before. 

“I don’t think I’m going to drink like that ever again!” Jenkins said as they casually walked. He realised that Iyer’s earlier comment about the brightness of the ship’s lights was true, especially when you were suffering.

Iyer looked down at Jenkins, “Didn’t you say that after your bachelor party?”

“This time I mean it!” Jenkins said. “Let’s hope it helped Jack out a bit.”

“I think it did. The news about the Raven was rough to get.” Iyer said. “I know this is probably wrong to say, but it makes me glad I kept both Roburn and Edro on Earth.”

Nodding in agreement, Jenkins looked up at the sergeant. “Talking of which, how are they getting on with your parents?”

“Really well, which is a surprise. My parents were strict on my brother and I when we were growing up.” Iyer said. “I think it’s why my brother rebelled a bit when we were teenagers.”

“They’re probably enjoying being grandparents.” Jenkins remarked. “It’s a different role to being an actual parent. Plus the boys never had any true structure in their lives.”

“Yeah you’re probably right.” Iyer said. “I got a message from my folks before we entered the Barrens to say the boys are doing well with their therapist and they’re planning for them to start school at the start of next year. In the meantime, my parents have got them a tutor each to get them up to speed with the basics.”

“That’s such good news Rupesh.” Jenkins said as they approached the mess hall. “To be honest, we could do more of it around here.”

“Agreed.” Iyer said as they approached the mess hall doors and entered. 

By the afternoon, Fleet Captain Burton had called for a joint meeting between the two senior staffs from both ships. Quietly working his office, Burton was tweaking Müller’s plan and adding a few of his own ideas into it as well. Out of the two of them he was more tactical orientated. Burton was glad to be by himself for a bit as he considered the plan of attack, so when the door chime went off he was a bit irked about the disruption.

“Come.” He said in his thick British accent. 

The door swiftly opened and stepping in at a fast pace was brother, Roman. 

“Hey Roman.” Lloyd said in a friendly tone, he was pleased to see his little brother. 

“Don’t, hey Roman me!” The chief engineer of the Discovery said as he placed his hands on his hips. 

Surprised at his brother’s remark, Burton was taking back a bit. “What’s wrong Roman?”

“You know what!” Roman threw back.

Having a complete expression of ‘no idea’ plastered across him, Lloyd was extremely confused as to what he should know. “Come again?” He said back as he picked up his mug of tea. “What are you going on about?” He asked before he took a sip. 

Roman appeared more surprised at his older brother’s words. “I’ve just finished a brief chat with my captain to find out you’ve approved his idea of attacking the Romulans and he mentioned that you’re not informing Starfleet.”

“And?” Lloyd asked back to his brother. “What’s it got to do with you Commander Burton?”

“I knew it!” Roman said as he threw his hands up in the air and then crossed them against his chest as he marched up and down his brother’s office. “I had an inkling yesterday that something was off with you when we had that argument on the drone ship. Madison, Seth and I all said we felt that bloody Martian adventure had changed you.”

Turning in his chair to watch his brother walking around his office, Lloyd was caught off guard by that last comment. “What’s Mars got to do with any of this?”

Roman stopped and turned on his heel to stare at his brother. “Are we off the record? I’m not talking to the new Fleet Captain Burton; I want my big brother Lloyd here.”

Tapping his computer console to switch it off and then hitting another button that locked his door, Lloyd looked back to his brother. “Go ahead.”

“Out of all of us, you had to deal with the most on that damn red planet.” Roman stated, “Not only with dad but with that little other surprise too. You’ve also seen the most action out of us so far.” 

Lloyd knew that Roman was referring to the unexpected arrival of Captain Karim and Lieutenant Commander Rossi. The revelation that they had covered up their apparent deaths and that they worked for some sort of shady group that blatantly disregarded the Starfleet Charter and did anything for the greater good of defending Earth’s interest without any consequence or oversight had caught Lloyd completely off guard. That said it also made him mad that his father had been dragged into all of it too. The whole deception was despicable. Perhaps it did hit him harder than the others. He had been forced into command because of Karim’s and her group’s actions along with having to cover the truth over his father’s own faked death. 

“Your point Roman?” Lloyd was tired of hearing this from his brother now. 

Sighing in frustration with his older sibling, Roman was close to screaming. “This is not you Lloyd.” He took a seat in the small armchair and looked at his brother. “You’ve been a by-the-book kind of officer for as long as I have known you. Why change now? My older brother would have informed Starfleet about his plans.”

“Because I’ve had enough!” Lloyd snapped. “I’ve had enough that the organisation we belong to is able to have a group within it that can make decisions without anyone checking over their shoulder. I’ve had enough of these damn Romulans attacking us and our allies. They’ve attacked us all and I’m worried the next target will be Earth. I’ve had enough of reading countless reports of battles where Starfleet seems to be losing, even when we do win we lose something. I’ve seen first-hand what their telepresence capture program can do. I’ve had enough of them always having the upper hand, so if we can deal a cripple blow to them then you’re damn right I’m not going to inform Starfleet until the deed is done.”

Baffled at the complete change of character, Roman was not sure he recognised his own brother anymore. “You’re Starfleet’s first Fleet Captain, if you’re doing this Lloyd out of some revenge because you feel others at Starfleet have let us down or because the Romulans are giving us a constant bloody nose then be careful this path you take. I don’t blame you for being angry, but you can’t compromise the safety of our ships or the security of Earth to satisfy some personal crusade. Once you take this route, you’ll end up finding yourself making other decisions that you may later regret. This isn’t just about rules and regulations. It’s about right and wrong. Don’t cross that line or allow it to become blurred.”

Sneering at his brother’s words, Lloyd wondered if they were now crossing the line between them being brothers and officers. “I appreciate your candour Roman. Now let me be just as frank. You’re right, I am angry. I’m damned angry. Last week I caught up on a report from Enterprise where at the start of this war Commodore Archer had to abandon an Earth freighter to avoid being captured himself. He was forced to allow that ship to be destroyed by Klingon ships that had been taken over by the Romulan telepresence capture program. Only the other day I had to tell my chief helm officer that the family that took him in when he was kicked out of Starfleet for misconduct had been wiped out of existence when the Romulans destroyed them in an unprovoked attack. Men, women, children – all dead. All of them civilians, all of them innocent. At the same time I had to deal with seeing the burning hulk of the Armstrong and seeing that only a few of its crew survived the ordeal of a brutal assault. Those who did outlive their comrades, I’ve just had to sign off on their transfer papers to my ship and yours. They should all be on the original ship they were assigned. To top it all off, I was given orders by the Starfleet Commander-in-Chief to chase after the possibility that my brother’s own ship had been lost. I was livid, I was close to breaking point when I heard that it may have been you we lost first. This war is against everything this uniform stands for. We’re meant to be explorers, not soldiers. Those Romulan bastards are out there right now, planning their next move to murder innocent lifeforms just because they don’t like anyone else defending themselves. I’m not going to stand for it. I’m going to use the mandate that this new rank gives me. No matter how long it takes, no matter what the cost, I will remove the Romulan’s ability to capture our ships and others to use against one another. For once I would love to see their backs as they retreat from us. I want them to realise that they can no longer mess with us, that we mean business and even though they started this war, that we’re going to end it with a United Earth flag planted on top of their homeworld. If you want to call that a vendetta, go right ahead.”

Roman just shook his head in disbelief and got up. His worries for his brother had just been validated and he didn’t know what else to say to him. “Just watch your back Lloyd.” He said in a low tone. “I love you man.”

“Love you too bro.” Lloyd said as Roman stopped at the door and opened it to leave him alone again. For a moment he considered what his brother had just said to him. Did he really want to change? Was he really going to blur the line in regard to doing what is right or wrong now? Those and so many more questions flooded his mind, something that he needed to be clear. Without thinking it through he just picked up his empty mug and left his office to go get a fresh refill before the two crews met to finalise their battle plans.